Living with guns rather than dying with guns

Even with widespread access to guns in the U.S., there are still many things that can be done to reduce gun violence, such as adding common-sense safety mechanisms to guns or—even more simply—urging gun owners to lock up their firearms, according to experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC) and professor of health policy, and Matthew Miller, HICRC co-director and a professor at Northeastern University, were interviewed on radio panel discussions on how to deal with gun violence, in the wake of a mass shooting at a college in Oregon.

“There are so many things that manufacturers can do,” said Hemenway on October 8, 2015 on the show “To The Point,” on Santa Monica-based KCRW. “They can help reduce crime by making guns that have serial numbers that are hard to obliterate, and by making sure their guns have ballistic fingerprinting so you can tell which particular gun fired [in a crime]. They can reduce accidents by making sure that guns don’t go off when they’re dropped. They can make sure that when a teenager finds his dad’s semiautomatic and takes out the magazine and thinks the gun’s unloaded that, instead of inadvertently killing his best friend, when he pulls the trigger nothing will happen because of magazine safeties.”

On NPR’s “Weekend Edition” on October 11, 2015, Hemenway noted that the average American is 10 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other developed countries such as France, Australia, or Canada. Miller said that, after a brutal massacre in Australia in the 1990s, that country passed legislation banning assault weapons and instituting a mandatory firearm buyback program. “And since that law was passed, there have been no mass shootings in Australia,” he said.

Miller also urged gun owners to keep their firearms locked. “Right now, there are people who have guns in their homes stored loaded and unlocked with the best of intentions to protect themselves and their families,” he said. “But the reality is—and we know this from several good studies—that they’re actually imperiling themselves and their families. The actuarial risk associated with a gun in a home means everyone in that home is at increased risk of dying by that gun.”

Listen to the KCRW interview: Gun Control, Back on the Front Burner

Listen to the NPR interview: Researchers Explore How To Reduce U.S. Gun Violence Deaths

Learn more

How to cut gun deaths (Harvard Chan School news)

The public health case for gun control (Harvard Chan School news)